The Internship Experience

Internship Overview

Internships are professional apprenticeship experiences that give students the opportunity to gain practical experience in a professional environment.  It is the opportunity for a student to take what she has learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world.  Prior to the college years, many young people have part-time jobs like babysitting or yard work, but few have exposure to the professional office environment.  The internship is the first opportunity to know what it is like to work in an office, to learn how to dress and perform in a professional manner, and to apply professional skills and talents.  It is a chance to develop communication and interpersonal skills, to build your knowledge base about a specific field, and to practice a higher level of responsibility and confidence.  There are clear advantages to having an internship under your belt, particularly in today’s highly competitive job market.  Completing an internship not only bolsters your resume, but allows you to acquire essential professional skills that will help you succeed in your career; gives you stronger credibility in a job interview; sets you apart from other applicants when it is time to secure a job; and gives you the opportunity to network and make useful professional connections.

Your daily work as an intern will depend on the nature of your internship organization, agency, or company.  An internship will likely involve a combination of substantive and administrative duties.  Your daily internship responsibilities might include: research, report writing, attending and reporting on Congressional hearings, planning activities, policy analysis, general administrative tasks, organizing events, or attending meetings.  You will probably not be paid for your internship work.  Paid internships are rare in Washington D.C., although some organizations may offer a small stipend, such as payment for a Metro card that covers your transportation to and from work.  What you do earn for internship work is college credit and invaluable hands-on professional experience.

Washington D.C. is the ideal place to find a professional internship.  There are abundant opportunities to work inside top nonprofit organizations, Federal government agencies, arts and cultural organizations, and leading companies.  Whatever your field of study is, there is sure to be an ideal internship opportunity for you in the nation’s capital.  Examples of possible internship placements are: the Department of State, the White House, the Brookings Institution, Representative Cory Gardener’s office, Representative Jared Polis’ office, the U.S. Institute for Peace, the Department of Defense, Meet the Press/NBC, the International Trade Commission, the Environmental Law Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, the International Labor Organization, the U.S. Department of Education, CNN/The Situation Room, the Red Cross, Senator Mark Udall’s office, and the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.  The possibilities are endless!

Click here to see a list of even more internship possibilities.

Are you a CMCI student who is interested in having an internship and taking CU classes in Washington D.C.?  We have a special internship and coursework track that is specially designed for you!  Click here to learn more about the CU in D.C. WMI (Washington Media Institute) track for CU students with CMCI majors: WMI track, CU in D.C.

Internship Details

CU in D.C. is a program that combines a four-day internship experience with weekly coursework in Washington D.C.  Students can participate in a CU in D.C. internship during the fall, spring, or summer semester.  They typically intern Monday through Thursday and attend class one evening per week and/or on Fridays.  Participants earn CU credit for both the coursework and for the internship work.  The academic-year semesters are 14 weeks long, and the summer semester is 10 weeks long.  Participants typically earn 13 credits during an academic-year semester and earn 6 credits during the summer semester.  Students usually earn credits toward their majors and also earn Arts and Sciences credits.  All participants are responsible for completing some assignments that go along with the internship experience (a substantial research paper, for example).  It is important to meet with your academic advisor in advance to discuss your participation in the CU in D.C. program.  Your advisor can support you in ensuring that your participation in the program keeps you aligned with your academic plans, target graduation date, and major requirements.

Finding the Perfect Internship

CU in D.C. will collaborate with you to find a suitable internship opportunity and the program has numerous D.C. contacts to help facilitate the placement process.  We are here to support you with the process, but please be aware that the internship application process is separate from, and in addition to, the CU in D.C. application process.  Each organization/agency/business in Washington D.C. will have its own specific process, with its own deadlines and application requirements.  In other words, you apply to the CU in D.C. program, but you also apply separately to internships and follow the time lines and requirements of the specific organizations that interest you.  You should begin researching internship opportunities early and should not wait until after acceptance into the program.  Begin exploring D.C. internships as soon as you can, and you can even begin working on internship applications while you simultaneously work on and submit your CU in D.C. application.

The ideal internship is out there for you.  It is just a matter of doing some basic research and thinking carefully about your professional interests and goals.  To get started, and before you seek program support in identifying an internship opportunity, you should think carefully about your interests and objectives.  You should ask yourself the following key questions:

  • Which professional sector do I want to be immersed in and what knowledge/subject area to I want to explore?
  • Do I want to work for a government agency/department, on the hill for a Senator or Congressperson, for a business, for a nonprofit organization, for a cultural/art institution?
  • What kinds of skills do I want to gain during my internship and what specific placement will help me acquire those skills?
  • Where do I want to be professionally in 5 or 10 years, and what internship experience will get me there?

Next, after you are sure about your objectives and have a clearer direction, you can move on to the internship search phase.  There are numerous resources and databases online that can aid in your search for an internship.  You should explore some of these websites to see what options are out there and what placement might be a good fit for you.  By researching online you will also get a sense of the process involved and the eligibility factors required for securing particular internships.  Some organizations have internship application processes that are simple and quick, while others have processes that take longer and are more involved.  For example, internships with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are offered to students from a wide variety of majors and require participants to submit to an extensive background check and pass a high-level security clearance.  The Federal security clearance process for USAID and other Federal agencies and departments typically takes between 60-90 days.  So it is important to gather all of this information in advance, to research the internship application process, and to plan ahead.  If your goal is to intern for a Federal department or agency, you should plan ahead about two semesters, just to ensure that you can obtain the proper security clearance in time for your internship semester.  Most of these agencies require applicants to apply for security clearance after they have tentative acceptance into their internship program.  And most Federal agencies create internship application timelines and deadlines that take the security clearance process into account (i.e.: they add a few months to the process to include the time it takes to get security clearance).

If you identify an internship that really interests you, go ahead and follow the internship application instructions for that specific organization and go through the application process.  You should identify and pursue your “dream” internship, but you should also find and follow up on several other internships possibilities.  We recommend that you apply to up to five different internships because it will improve your chances of landing a placement and you will have a back-up plan if your first internship choice is highly competitive and you are not selected.  You will already be preparing typical application pieces, like references and resumes, so it will not take much more time to put together additional internship applications.  Please notify us if you receive an internship offer so that we can make a record of your placement, and also let us know if you are facing any challenges in securing an internship.

If you need support in identifying an internship opportunity, we encourage you to get in touch with CU in D.C. so that we can help you find a great internship placement.  CU in D.C. has numerous contacts and relationships in Washington D.C. and we have successfully supported all students who have applied to our program in the past in securing internship placements.  For assistance with finding an internship, please contact the CU in D.C. Assistant Director, Vicki Hunter.

Click here for a list of internship ideas and possibilities.

Are you a CMCI student who is interested in having an internship and taking CU classes in Washington D.C.?  We have a special internship and coursework track that is specially designed for you!  Click here to learn more about the CU in D.C. WMI (Washington Media Institute) track for CU students with CMCI majors: WMI track, CU in D.C.

Explore These Internship Websites

General Internship Search Sites

Specific Organization / Field of Study Internship Search Sites

Internship Opportunity Sheets by Major

Astronomy, Climate, Meteorology internships

China-Related internships

EBIO internships

ENVS internships

Health Sciences and Health Policy internships

Immigration and Refugee internships

MCDB internships

PSYC & NRSC internships

Pre-Law and Law Enforcement Internships



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